Call for papers
Seminar Gender and controversies online
January - June 2016 / Lyon (France)
Organizers : Isabelle Hare, Stéphanie Kunert, Aurélie Olivesi
Call for papers
Gender, as a theoretical tool which challenges the idea of “sex differences” and raises awareness on genderbased discriminations, is being debated, discussed, and subjected to several conflicts of definition, which also
embrace whom is entitled to define the concept and which themes are covered by it. The concept of gender, as
well as gender-related theory, have been controversial for a long time. This polemic is linked to the ancient
controversy around “sex differences”. Therefore, the study of gender in the public sphere has to take into
consideration present polemics and previous controversies.
This seminar takes place within the context of current research on data science applied to online controversies
and the online public sphere. In which ways do digital devices heighten the controversies? How do they allow the
researchers to observe new polemical relations? Does the amount of online discursive data allow the observation
of different gender/ed interactions?
The specific type of interactions developed within the online public sphere (digital identities and communication
patterns) tend to lead to polemical uses (smear campaigns, thematic hashtags…) but also paradoxically to dilute
political stakes and critical charge of feminist concepts.
The goal and stake of this seminar are to understand in which way specific online modes of interaction
(pseudonymity, short temporality, “cascade effect”) may contribute to gender-related polemics, to the conflict of
definition around the concept of gender, but also to the erosion of the concept’s critical edge. Online public sphere
is often compared to places where opinions are being confronted, but it rather supports “debates by dissociation”,
debates in which divergent opinions grow in a parallel way instead of really confronting each other. This leads to
the outcome of high-magnitude debates, debates in which the original confrontation of ideas is diluted in a
multitude of micro-debates fed by a vast number of contributors.
Studying the discourse on gender in different instances allows to capture issues related to the sociology of
networks, to social and linguistic conservatisms, to the disaffection of some part of the public for certain media
and the development - or the obsolescence - of certain discursive practices. In this perspective, we will take into
account proposals about gender-related issues and their comments on the online versions of mainstream media,
on pure players, on social networks, on feminist blogs and forums as well as on media and blogs focusing on the
theme of "gender theory" to confront it.
The analysis of the anchor points of definitions that are emerging in the digital space, by articulating explicit and
implicit dimensions, allows to understand how the discourse on gender remains unstable : it can renew itself while
continuing to convey traditional representations.
One goal of this seminar is to strengthen dialogue and collaboration between researchers from various
disciplinary backgrounds (communication and medias studies, law, linguistics, political science, sociology,
computer science...), to connect the methods and knowledge of controversies in digital spaces - while underlining
the specificity of these digital spaces and device in the light of political controversy and polemics that update and
feed it by impacting the social body.
Indeed, the different methods of discourse analysis, as well as computer science, media sociology, semiotics, are
all possible approaches to seize how this controversy is deployed and reconfigured in various digital spaces and
These approaches are also all confronted to the labile unsteady and polymorphous dimension of discourses that
are involved in gender controversies, as well as their polyphony. This seminar not only aims to sustain dialogue
between researchers on gender and controversies, online public sphere and opinion mining, but also offers more
visibility to new collaborations and emerging researches, by contributing to a collective publication at the end of
this seminar.
This seminar will be organized around four themes:
Theme 1 (January, 29th 2016) : Polyphony in the discourses about Gender : social liberalism, Gender
backlash, New Definitions, dilution
Online discourses about Gender are very polyphonic. There are at the same time liberal talks (in spontaneous
campaigns online to support the victims of discriminations), conservative backlashes (demonstrations against gay
wedding, lad culture), and the diminution of feminist criticism (Pop feminism). Analysing this kind of contents, we
would like to adopt a perspective inspired by Cultural Studies to study the representations at stake and the
movement of those issues - in spheres different than from institutions or activists. How the digital spaces could be
a pace for the raising of new forms of discourse on gender.
Theme 2 (March, 11th 2016) : Cyberbullying and prevention
Since online violence (symbolic and verbal) has its specificities, scholar investigate gender-based violence
through the analysis of cyberbullying. Online violence affects particularly women and sexual minorities :
harassment, slander, revenge porn, homophobic slurs, disclosure of sexually explicit pictures without consent,
geolocation and monitoring... How does cyberbullying replicate on a larger scale the traditional forms of gender
violence, how is it different? Could it be possible to use digital devices to raise awareness about gender-based
violence and prevent it.
Theme 3 (April, 1st 2016) : A quantitative analysis of Gender representation in digital spaces ?
Gender could be a very relevant issue to analyse the conflicts in definition and to measure, in a quantitative and
qualitative ways, the stereotypes and social roles. This theme aims to confront statistical approaches on complex
and big data. How can such approaches be adapted to an algorithmic approach? How do they depend on a
preliminary qualitative study, in order to determine the categories of analysis? Is it really possible to « measure »
Gender online ?
Theme 4 (May, 27th, 2016) : Feminism and antifeminism online
In this session, we want to study more structured uses of digital spaces, specifically from activists and / or
institutions. Online media provide an efficient sphere for activists speeches (feminists, anti-feminists, masculinists,
conservative religious groups) to seem more structured and focused for Government actions for women to be
more visible. What are feminist and antifeminist strategies to enter digital spaces ? In which way do the analysis
of digital activism tools and devices allow us to analyse the structure of the controversy about Gender ?
Submission details :
The seminar Gender and controversies on line revolves around four sessions between January and June 2016. It
takes the form of conferences on four days with one invited speaker per thematic session. Ther presentations wil
be French and in English (a simultaneous translation will be set). In addition to these speakers, we wish to open
this seminar to other point of views.
Submission deadline : september 15th, 2015.
Paper format : an abstract of no more than 450 words (bibliography included) + a short bio-bibliographie (200250 words) + the preference for one of the four themes.
Submissions are welcomed from all disciplines, and we would particularly encourage PhD students and early
career researchers to apply.
There are no other requirements with regard to the format.
Scientific committee (in progress)
Aurélie Olivesi (ELICO)
Isabelle Hare (ELICO)
Stéphanie Kunert (ELICO)
For any question or for further information, please mail us :
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